Peep Show Series 9 Review: Jez & Mark a depressing duo with nothing left to live for
When Channel 4‘s odd couple sitcom Peep Show first hit our screens back in 2003, a large proportion of the British population seemed to feel an instant, uncanny affinity with Jeremy ‘Jez’ Usborne and Mark Corrigan, as played by Robert Webb and David Mitchell. The dysfunctional duo just seemed to ‘get’ us, with their remarkably well-observed internal voiceovers providing a startlingly accurate narration of the real lives of underachieving 30-somethings bumbling their way through 21st-century London.
This week, Peep Show returns for Series 9 after a three year absence.
The first episode of the series, entitled ‘The William Morris Years’ in reference to the dreary paletted wallpaper designer, gives us some indication of what’s changed. Firstly, three years away from TV have seen Mitchell and Webb enter their forties. Second of all, and sadly interrelated, that time has also seen Peep Show lose its grip on the cultural relevancy which earned it its cult status. Before we get lunged at with pitchforks, allow us to expand.
“A forty-year-old Jez choosing between a makeshift bedroom in his friend’s bathtub and sleeping in one of the Royal Parks is downright bleak.”
The fact that hopeless wannabe rock star Jez was nowhere near getting his life together in Seasons 1-8 of Peep Show was already pushing the boundaries of depressing, yet the meanness of his self-centred delusion was offset by the joy we derived from his larrikin-like tricks and pranks, as he stubbornly fought to keep his inner child alive. Now, a forty-year-old Jez choosing between a makeshift bedroom in his friend’s bathtub and sleeping in one of the Royal Parks is downright bleak.
Despite being the more level-headed of the duo, Mark’s existence is equally miserable. Living with an unlikeable colleague from the Met City bank he now works at, the hopeless pencil-pusher struggles to sell loans at 21% APR to ‘gullible idiots’ by day, and spends his evenings playing Candy Crush on the toilet.
Meanwhile, Superhans – whom we could always rely on for laughs in previous seasons – has transformed into a juice detoxing Soberhans, living under the thumb of his straight-laced soon-to-be wife.
Where’s the joy in watching a dismal trio of Generation X-ers with nothing left to live for but the ‘mini fist pump feeling’ of ordering a curry from Just Eat? It only makes us feel shit about ourselves.
So what’s happened to the funny side of this comedy?
Where Peep Show used to excel in its up-to-dateness (there’s probably no better example than the lead singer of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong playing Sophie’s Big Chill-obsessed neurotic brother), this season’s jokes about The Strokes, Grand Designs and Facebook seem painfully stale. Jez wearing a ‘Chris (Simpsons Artist)’ t-shirt screams that Peep Show is desperately trying to catch up on three years of culture. Even what promises to be the first episode’s comedic climax – which we can’t reveal in great detail, but can say it entails tying someone up in a sleeping bag and disposing of him – turns out to be pretty dark.
We’re still yet to see whether Peep Show will manage to redeem itself by restoring its previous balance of cheerless and charming. Asides from the potentially touching exploration of Jez and Mark’s reluctantly symbiotic relationship, the introduction of new female characters, or, even better, the reintroduction of Olivia Colman as Sophie or Isy Suttie as Dobby, may inject some hope into these two men’s sad, sad lives.
So here’s to Series 9 of Peep Show. We’ll watch every episode of it for old time’s sake, but at this point, we’re glad it’s the last.
The final series of Peep Show begins tomorrow (Wednesday November 11th) at 10pm on Channel 4. Watch the trailer here: